On Halloween, June forgot to attend her after school reading-cooking-art class and came home on the bus. I was a little dismayed to see her home earlier than expected because the class wasn’t cheap and I’d gone to some trouble to get her on the wait list when it filled before she enrolled. Not to mention it was the second time that week my workday was unexpectedly cut short. I’d had to pick her up at school on Tuesday because she lost her shoes at recess. (Don’t ask. I don’t know why she removed them or where they went.) On the other hand, I remember how exciting Halloween can be when you’re seven so I wasn’t too surprised the class slipped her mind.
June was dressed as Amy from the 39 Clues series because students at her school were invited to come to school dressed as their favorite character from a book on Halloween. In the past her school has not observed Halloween (unless you count the vocabulary parade last year—and I don’t). I suppose this compromise was meant to straddle the line between those who want some festivity and those who don’t approve of the holiday or at least the more ghastly aspects of it.
I don’t think there’s a very detailed physical description of Amy in the books and they’re not illustrated, so that left June free to imagine how she thought Amy might dress, based on the choices available at our local thrift store. A pink and orange, tiered dress with a green belt, a brown scarf, teal leggings, and sparkly white shoes were what she choose. It wasn’t that different from what June might wear on a normal day. Noah, who’s been reading this series for years, protested, “That’s not what Amy would wear,” but as Beth pointed out, June likes Amy so she assumes whatever she likes, Amy would like. To clarify things, she carried a copy of the first book in the series to school with her.
At June’s bus stop that morning there was a boy dressed as Rin Tin Tin, which also needed explaining, and a girl (the same one who was a picnic table at the parade last weekend) dressed as Ramona Quimby. Ramona had a helpful identifying sign attached to her shirt with a safety pin. It made sense once I read it because the girl’s outfit was more tomboyish than her usual style.
Noah got home about fifteen minutes after June because he didn’t have band practice. While June watched the special Halloween episodes of The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That and Curious George, Noah and I settled on the porch where he proceeded to give his SmarTrip costume some finishing touches, and I read to him from Grip of the Shadow Plague while he painted. It was an unusually warm day, around 70 degrees. He wore a t-shirt and I was barelegged in denim skirt.
After Noah finished working on his costume, or stopped rather—he never quite finished all the details he wanted to paint—I ran a bath for June and started making dinner (grilled cheese and minestrone from a can). Meanwhile, Noah got the little coffin/fog machine going, lit the jack-o-lanterns and tried to replace the dead batteries in the light-up ghost head, a project that ended up being harder than we anticipated and required Beth’s help.
Beth came home early, exclaimed over Noah’s costume—“You made it even more beautiful!”—and we were eating dinner by 5:45. Then it was time to cut hand holes in Noah’s costume so he could hold his candy bag and to attach it to him with suspenders, as it had been somewhat awkward to carry during the parade. Beth said she hated to cut it, though, because she had to remove part of the Washington Monument and some of the lettering at the bottom. June got herself into her costume and Beth painted her face white and applied lipstick to her lips with little drops of blood going down her chin.
June’s friend Megan and her sister Fiona came by shortly before 6:30, dressed as Hermione and the Bride of Frankenstein. After they left, Noah went to meet Sasha and Beth and June set out in search of treats. I was left at home to hand out candy to a fairy, whose dad said we had “the spookiest house on the block,” a firefighter, and a skeleton with a bloody face. Around 7:20, we got a group of about a half a dozen boys including a box of Cheerios and a chicken. When I opened the door, I realized it had started raining. This was a surprise as I’d heard on the radio there wouldn’t be any rain until midnight, well after trick or treating time.
I wondered if Beth and June would come home early. I’d authorized Beth to let June stay out a little past her bedtime, until eight, but just as I was wondering if they’d stay out that long, they were on the porch. Given that Sasha and Noah were out without any adults, I didn’t expect him much before his appointed return time of 8:30, rain or no rain. I remember being twelve, too.
I asked if it had just started raining and Beth said it had been raining a while. Apparently when it started June, in Beth’s words “declared that vampires love rain, that, in fact rain is the favorite weather of vampires and there was no reason whatsoever to consider cutting our route short.”
June dumped her candy on the living room rug to inventory it and decide what pieces to eat right away. A leprechaun came to the door and when I commented how everyone who’d come had been very polite, saying thank you for the candy and complimenting our decorations, June whispered something to Beth and thus reminded, Beth reported that June had also remembered to say thank you at each house without any prompting from Beth.
We were playing Halloween music and June and I danced together to “Spooky.” When it got to the line “Love is kind of crazy with a spooky little girl like you,” I pointed to her and she pointed back to me. Then she said we should both point to Beth at the next repetition of the chorus, but we were interrupted by another group of trick-or-treaters. The rain did not seem to be deterring anyone. In fact, around eight, as I was handing out candy to a dragon and a pirate, I saw Noah and Sasha, who was wearing I thought might have been a mummy costume—he was in white and had a big round head anyway—pass by our house without pausing.
They were back by 8:20. On closer inspection, I could see Sasha was wearing a lab coat and a pale green fright wig. “Mad scientist?” I guessed and he said yes. The paint on Noah’s costume was smeared from the rain and had rubbed off on his candy bag. I told him to leave it out on the porch so it didn’t stain anything in the house. I said I didn’t think anyone would steal it and he said it “wasn’t unheard of” for people to steal SmarTrips.
When I asked what people thought of his costume, Noah said a few people told him his was the best one they’d seen all night. One person even said it should be in a museum and some people offered him extra candy for his effort. (June had been told she made a “beautiful” vampire, so her ego was satisfied, too.)
A group of students from the college just a couple blocks from the house came by, explaining that they’re on the track team and they’d noted our house while out on a run and determined this would be a good place to go for candy on Halloween. They were our second to last group. Around 9:20, Noah and I went outside to blow out the candles in the jack-o-lanterns, switch off the glowing skulls and other battery-operated props, turn off the fog machine, and call Halloween a wrap.
Friday: Día de los muertos
The kids had Friday off school, not because it was the day after Halloween, not because it was All Saints’ Day, and not because it was the Day of the Dead. They had it off because Thursday was the last day of the first marking period and Friday was a grading day for teachers. Beth took it off, too, and in the morning we took Noah to the orthodontist for a diagnostic appointment. They came up with a treatment plan and a payment plan and took all manner of photographs and x-rays and impressions of his teeth. One of the x-rays was of his whole skull and neck, which was kind of cool to see, especially given the date. He will be getting braces in mid-January and will wear them for approximately two and a half years if all goes as planned. I felt morose and sorry for him the whole appointment because I did not particularly enjoy having braces, but I guess it’s a rite of passage and surely there have been advances in orthodontia since the 1980s that should make it more comfortable.
Afterward we had lunch at California Tortilla, which did not appear to be observing the holiday at all (missed opportunity there) and the kids and I coaxed Beth into trips to Starbucks and Trader Joe’s, which are both located in the same shopping center. Beth and I both worked a little in the afternoon and June had a make-up violin lesson, which Beth got to attend for the first time.
Saturday: All Souls’ Day
Noah and I made pumpkin bread Saturday afternoon. While I was scooping out the shell of the pumpkin, I found a sprouted seed inside it. I kept it to show everyone. June wanted to plant it and I automatically said no, because it’s November and the wrong time to plant pumpkins, but then Beth said why not put it in a pot and see what happened, so I relented and wrapped it up in a wet paper towel to keep it moist until I got a chance to plant it. It did seem determined to live.
Later that afternoon, Beth and I participated in June’s therapy club and her martial arts club. This was the second meeting of the therapy club. I’d missed the first one last weekend while I was at the pool. Therapy club consists of sitting in chairs outside and chanting a series of syllables after June, lying on the ground on a beach towel, and eating fresh mandarin oranges. Her martial art—Niclimba—involves doing movements with sticks and was less soothing to my soul, largely because I could never remember the sequence of the movements.
Sunday: Fall Back, 12.5
We set the clocks back on Saturday night, which meant that when the kids’ conversation in their bedroom woke me at 6:15, it felt like 7:15 and I wasn’t as irritated as I might have otherwise been.
June had a birthday party to attend with a wraparound play date because we were planning to take Noah to see Ghostbusters at the American Film Institute and our regular sitter was not available. When I asked Megan’s mom Kerry if June could play at their house that day (completely forgetting Kerry had a birthday party—a Chuck E. Cheese’s birthday party no less—to supervise that day) instead of saying, “Are you crazy?” she welcomed June to their house before and after the party. Thanks, Kerry! I owe you.
When we got to the theater, Beth said what she always says, that the full-size, ornately decorated theater is how all theaters should look. I remembered surprisingly little about the film, but I enjoyed it. Bill Murray’s comic timing and delivery of his lines is exquisite. The film was both scarier and sexier than I remembered, but I think it was okay for Noah. He laughed at the right places, anyway, and seemed to especially like when the demon takes the form of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man at the end. He’s growing up—in fact Beth actually forgot to buy a twelve-and-under ticket for him and then she said, “It’s because you’re so mature. I don’t think of you as a child.” And he won’t be eligible for that twelve-and-under price much longer. It was his half-birthday on Sunday, so we stopped at Cake Love after the movie, for the traditional half-birthday cupcakes.
Later that afternoon (or should I say evening, as it was dark), June and I took down the Halloween decorations from the porch and yard and packed them in boxes. Beth made a white bean soup for dinner and after dinner we had the cupcakes to celebrate a decade and a quarter of Noah.
“How did our baby get to be twelve and a half?” I asked Beth. She just shrugged.
Time marches on, Halloween is over, and my kids keep insisting on getting older. That’s okay, though. Whether he’s dressing himself as public transportation fare card or she’s inventing a new martial art, wondering what’s around the corner is what keeps me going sometimes. Love is kind of crazy with a spooky little girl and boy like these two.